The Q&A Archives: Ostrich Ferns Dying

Question: I bought 3 Ferns last spring and planted in a partial shady spot. 2 of them are Ostrich Ferns and 1 is Male fern. Male fern still is green and doing alright. But Ostrich ferns started growing but now have completely become brown. I am not sure whther they died or it is because of the autumn turning to cold. Will it come back in spring or can I assume they are dead and clean it up.

Answer: Both of these ferns are deciduous and the foliage will turn brown and dry eventually each fall. That would be normal. Most gardeners leave the spent foliage in place to provide a little protection to the plant over the winter. However you could carefully remove them if desired.

The Ostrich Fern (Matteucia pennsylvanica) requires a moister soil than the Male Fern and really needs a moist soil to grow its best. If located in drier soil or in a sunnier location it could brown earlier in the season due to drought stress. A new plant would be more susceptible to drought stress than an established one, too. In some cases when severely stressed it will die outright, but more often it survives to reemerge the following spring. You might want to take care to water it well during the summer months and see if that makes a difference.

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